Nice-based Scientology minister Cristophe Lemaire will step aside to make way for a more senior church leader _ possibly flown in from Paris or the US _ to perform the honours at the discreet service. Scientology mission president Mr Lemaire hinted the secrecy-shrouded wedding would occur somewhere between Monaco and Cannes, perhaps in the hinterland above the Riviera.
The locations and dates match with speculation about the anticipated wedding of Australia’s richest man Mr Packer to fiancee Erica Baxter. Church chiefs in Paris have asked staff at the Scientology mission in Nice to be on alert for an expected influx of media enquires.
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Mr Lemaire stressed he had no information specifically related to Mr Packer. Through a translator said he was as much in the dark as the average Australian about the particulars of the wedding plans. He also said he did not know if rumours Tom Cruise would officiate at the Packer wedding were true.
The Church of Scientology has a “Celebrity Centre” in Paris which is believed to be helping with arrangements for Mr Packer as well as possible wedding guests Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
On average, only three Scientology weddings a year occur on the French Riviera. Scientology is classified as a sect in France, not a religion, so the couple must also have a civil ceremony to ensure their union is legal. It is understood Mr Packer has not lodged documents with the mayor’s offices in any of the major towns between Monaco and Cannes.
Under French law, a notice displaying the names of parties who intend to wed must be displayed outside the city hall for two weeks. No such notices are currently posted for Mr Packer and Ms Baxter. The lovebirds may instead have a ship-board civil wedding on one of Mr Packer’s two boats _ the Arctic P and his new Mangusta cruiser _ ahead of a land-based Scientology service.
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Mr Lemaire said the Church of Scientology’s Nice Mission had about 100 members, and celebrated an average of three weddings a year, usually at private homes, gardens or beaches. The mission held a stall at the Cannes Film Festival last week to spread the word about spiritual leader L. Ron Hubbard ‘s teachings. Typical Scientology wedding services last for about an hour.
Mr Lemaire said couples exchanged vows, rings and a kiss. Couples can choose from five different sets of vows, with differing degrees of formality. Mr Lemaire said the vows selected recently by Scientologist couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes could be used by Mr Packer and his bride.
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